East Africa is a biodiversity hotspot. Haplocarpha rueppelii (Sch.Bip.) Beauverd is mainly distributed in the alpine grassland of East Africa. Here we sampled 65 individuals of eight populations/locations of H. rueppelii including hairy and glabrous forms from Mts. Elgon, Aberdare, Kenya, Kilimanjaro and Bale Mountains. We then sequenced one nuclear and three chloroplast DNA fragments and conducted phylogeographic analyses to test the taxonomic rank of the two forms and causes for the differentiation (intrinsic reproductive isolation and geographic barrier). The results demonstrate that the species consists of two major groups, one includes the populations from Mts. Elgon, Aberdare and Bale, while the other includes Mts. Kenya and Kilimanjaro. The species has established in Mts. Kenya and Aberdare during the Pleistocene. However, migration rate for individuals between the two mountains was low as showed by gene flow analysis. A barrier for plant dispersal and gene flow would have existed between Mts. Aberdare and Kenya since at least Pleistocene. No change of the taxonomic concept of this species is needed. This study reveals a potential geographic barrier in East Africa. We hope it will arouse more scientists’ interests in phylogeography and biodiversity of East Africa.
East Africa Afro-alpine Gene flow Phylogeography Taxonomy Haplocarpha rueppelii
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We thank Zhi-Duan Chen and Alexander Rockinger for revising this manuscript; Nigel P. Barker for suggestions on this study; Susanne S. Renner for providing herbarium materials and constructive suggestions; Shu-Ying Zhao for laboratory work; Ya-Ping Guo for assistance in data analyses; and Ya-Dong Zhou and Elizabeth M Kamande for assistance in field work. This work was supported by Sino-Africa Joint Research Center (Y323771W07, SAJC201322) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31300182).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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